What’re you gonna do now, NHL?
Travis Dermott, of the Arizona Coyotes, did the only logical, and right thing after the league tried to force everyone to bury their head in the sand about social issues, their preferred method for dealing with anything that might anger its core of aging, crotchety, dimwit fans. He put Pride Tape on his stick last night, even after the NHL had banned its use before the season.
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The ban was moronic, and now the NHL has turned this into a much bigger thing than it had to be, and something where the league can’t possibly look good. They could attempt to fine Dermott for breaking the rules, which would definitely be a look, penalizing a player for supporting the LGBTQ+ community. Even if the league stressed above all that it was fining Dermott for simply going against protocol, and it had nothing to do with Dermott’s message, they’ll never be able to escape that perception. And merely citing “rules” and “protocol” when it comes to banning statements of support for maligned communities sits not all that far from some really uncomfortable larger words, like “fascist” and “enabler.”
Or the NHL could do nothing, which is what it’s generally best at, and further open the gates for other players to do the same. To be clear, Dermott will only be the first, and not the last, and players seeing one of their coworkers do it will only embolden those who were considering it (and there were many). Which the league would then have a bunch of its players pissing all over perhaps its dumbest decree. Meaning that whatever credit or acclaim the players get for doing the right thing and supporting the LGBTQ+ community, it will be separate from the league. The NHL will just look silly, not a place that has encouraged “Hockey Is For Everyone” in the least but a place where its players have to rebel to be on the right side.
While Dermott is merely doing the right thing, in the world of hockey this is a step, especially for a player like Dermott who is hardly a foundational piece. He’s on his third team in three seasons and making less than $1 million. And in hockey’s “no distraction/the room matters overall” ethos, a player like this making headlines about himself definitely puts him at risk of a GM or coach who just wants to keep things quiet, and only about what happens on the ice. If the team made Dermott feel comfortable doing so, so much the better. But this isn’t Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby doing so, who are untouchable.
This was the mess the league created for itself by making noise about the issue when all it had to do was nothing. Let players who want to have the tape and jerseys and show their support do so. And those who don’t don’t, and maybe they’ll have to explain for themselves why they didn’t. And then they would be separate from the league’s position. It was so simple.
But no, the NHL once again gave in to hockey’s temperament that all that matters is TEAM and TOGETHERNESS and that no one can be left on their own to speak for themselves, even if they are ignorant bigots. Instead of letting the Provorovs and Staals of the world look stupid on their own, the NHL thought it could get away with everyone just being quiet which really meant everyone looked stupid.
Well, Travis Dermott wasn’t standing for that. Others won’t. And now the NHL looks even stupider. Which is usually how it goes.
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